Govt steps in to resolve BCC, ZPC rift

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

GOVERNMENT has stepped in to resolve the dispute between the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and power utility Zesa Holdings over the ownership of the coal-fired Bulawayo Power Station.

The BCC has been battling to regain control of the plant that was arbitrarily expropriated by Zesa more than two decades ago after the amalgamation of all local authorities’ electricity undertakings.

A few months ago, the Zimbabwe Power Company applied to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority to extend its operating licence of the power station by a
further 20 years.

The application was widely opposed by residents and the BCC, with the former describing the application as an attempt to nationalise a city council asset.

Recently, the power utility also came under fire after it revealed plans to demolish the station’s two cooling towers, despite the ownership dispute.

Local Government minister July Moyo on Friday said government was stepping in to resolve the dispute, with Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni confirming that the
local authority has been notified of the move.

“From our understanding, the issue is now being dealt with at Cabinet level. The two ministers (Local Government and Energy and Power Development) are handling
the matter,” Mguni said, adding that a meeting between the council and the respective ministers was in the offing.

Moyo, who was in Bulawayo on Friday, also confirmed the developments at a press briefing held at the Mhlahlandlela government complex.

“I will be having a discussion with the mayor … We have to discuss this because ministries of government have relationships with every local authority and they
come to discuss,” Moyo told journalists.

Bulawayo is nicknamed “Kontuthu Ziyathunqa (the smoke that bellows)”, a nickname coined after the Bulawayo Power Station cooling towers that the power utility
intends to demolish and upgrade.

In a petition, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) said the move was against the spirit of devolution, particularly on how provinces manage
their resources.

“The ramifications of transforming this project from being a local initiative to a national project may be far reaching if left unchecked, as there have been
no consultations with either the BCC or residents (the one-time owners of the station) in the applicants quest to seek both geographical and time extensions,”
the BPRA wrote.

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